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Open Recommendations

Foster Care: Education Could Help States Improve Educational Stability for Youth in Foster Care

GAO-19-616
Oct 02, 2019
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1 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education The Secretary of Education should develop an online clearinghouse of sample documents from states and localities who wish to share them, past webinar recordings and their related documents, and links to other relevant resources that all SEAs can access. (Recommendation 1)
Open

Recommendation status is Open.

Education agreed with this recommendation. The agency said that its Office of Elementary and Secondary Education will restructure its entire website to better organize its information, and create a new web page to house all foster care-related information and resources. Additionally, Education said this office will launch a virtual portal through which SEA foster care points of contact may collaborate and share resources. We will consider closing this recommendation when these efforts are complete.

Higher Education: More Information Could Help Student Parents Access Additional Federal Student Aid

GAO-19-522
Sep 12, 2019
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3 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education The Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education should correctly calculate its CCAMPIS program persistence rate and cost per persisting student measures. (Recommendation 1)
Open

Recommendation status is Open.

Education disagreed with this recommendation. The agency acknowledged one error in its persistence rate calculation that affected the accuracy of both the persistence rate and cost per persistent student measures that it reported in its fiscal year 2020 budget justification to Congress. It will correct this error in its fiscal year 2021 budget justification. In addition, Education stated that it would explore a different model for calculating the persistence rate. While we support exploring another model for calculating the persistence rate, Education's persistence rate calculation has additional errors that the agency needs to correct to accurately calculate the CCAMPIS program's persistence rate. For example, Education's calculations did not include students who transferred, which the agency has reported should be included in its persistence rate measure. Moreover, we identified other technical errors in the numerator and denominator of Education's formulas. For example, when calculating the persistence rate for CCAMPIS participants, Education counted students who declined to participate in the CCAMPIS program. We continue to believe that it is important for Education to report reliable program information to oversee and monitor the program and to provide accurate information to Congress. To do this, Education needs to take additional action to address all of the errors in its persistence calculations.
Department of Education The Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education should either collect the CCAMPIS participant enrollment data needed to calculate a standard 3-year graduation rate or accurately define and calculate a different college completion measure. (Recommendation 2)
Open

Recommendation status is Open.

Education disagreed with this recommendation. The agency stated that it could address our concerns with a modification to the description of the measure published in the agency's budget justification. Specifically, Education said it plans to clarify that, for graduation rate data published for fiscal year 2020 and prior years, the term "within 3 years of enrollment" means within 3 years of enrolling in the CCAMPIS program. However, Education's calculations do not align with this measure either. As for future years, the agency stated that it will explore transitioning to a new model of tracking CCAMPIS students over time, which, as described, would be consistent with Education's standard graduation rate. However, Education noted that it must carefully balance the need to collect more informative and reliable data from grantees with the need to avoid adding unnecessary reporting burdens. We recognize that collecting the enrollment data needed to calculate the standard graduation rate could place a burden on grantee schools. Our recommendation gives Education the option to define a different college completion measure and calculate it correctly. We will consider closing this recommendation when Education takes steps to either collect the necessary enrollment data to calculate a standard 3-year graduation rate or correctly calculate a modified college completion measure.
Department of Education The Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid should encourage schools—through appropriate means, such as the Federal Student Aid Handbook—to inform students via school websites about the availability of the dependent care allowance and how to request the allowance. (Recommendation 3)
Open

Recommendation status is Open.

Education disagreed with this recommendation. Education stated that it believes it would be inappropriate to indiscriminately encourage all schools to encourage student parents to borrow additional loans without considering a student's individual financial circumstances. We did not suggest that schools should encourage all student parents to borrow additional loans to pay for child care. Instead, we recommended that Education encourage schools to make students aware of this potential option-which federal law makes available to students-to allow them to make informed financial decisions based on their personal circumstances. We found that schools were not consistently sharing information with students about the dependent care allowance or how to request one. Furthermore, not all students may want to increase their student loans to finance their child care costs while in school; however, access to additional federal student loans could be a useful option for those students who may need it, so students should be aware of this potential option. Education also stated that it would be inappropriate for the agency to require schools to take actions that could erode their student loan repayment and default rates. We did not recommend that Education require schools to take any action but that the agency encourage schools to inform students about a potentially available federal resource. In addition, Education did not provide any evidence that being aware of or using the dependent care allowance would negatively affect student loan repayment or default rates.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness: Improving the Temporary Expanded Process Could Help Reduce Borrower Confusion

GAO-19-595
Sep 05, 2019
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4 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Federal Student Aid The Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid should integrate the TEPSLF request into the PSLF application, for example, by including a checkbox on the PSLF application, to provide borrowers a more seamless way to request TEPSLF consideration. (Recommendation 1)
Open

Recommendation status is Open.

Education agreed with this recommendation. To make the TEPSLF loan forgiveness process easier for borrowers, Education stated that it will integrate the TEPSLF request into the PSLF application as part of the improvements planned for the PSLF application under its new online interface for student borrowers. We will consider closing this recommendation when Education completes this effort.
Office of Federal Student Aid The Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid should provide certain borrowers, for example, those who are denied TEPSLF for not having 120 qualifying payments, with more information about options available to contest TEPSLF decisions on the TEPSLF website and in their denial letters. (Recommendation 2)
Open

Recommendation status is Open.

Education agreed with this recommendation. Education stated that it will add information for borrowers on the procedures for contesting TEPSLF decisions to FSA's specific TEPSLF website and in relevant TEPSLF denial letters. We will consider closing this recommendation when Education completes these efforts.
Office of Federal Student Aid The Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid should require all loan servicers to provide TEPSLF information on their websites. (Recommendation 3)
Open

Recommendation status is Open.

Education agreed with this recommendation. Education stated it will require all loan servicers to provide TEPSLF information on their websites within 120 days. We will consider closing this recommendation when Education completes this effort.
Office of Federal Student Aid The Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid should include TEPSLF information in its PSLF Online Help Tool. (Recommendation 4)
Open

Recommendation status is Open.

Education agreed with this recommendation. Education stated it will include TEPSLF information in the PSLF Help Tool. We will consider closing this recommendation when the agency completes this action.

Federal Student Loans: Education Needs to Verify Borrowers' Information for Income-Driven Repayment Plans

GAO-19-347
Jul 25, 2019
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3 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Federal Student Aid The Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid should obtain data in order to verify income information for borrowers reporting zero income on IDR applications. For example, Education could pursue access to federal data sources or obtain access to an appropriate private data source. (Recommendation 1)
Open

Recommendation status is Open.

Education generally agreed with this recommendation. Education stated that the President's fiscal year 2020 budget request includes a proposal that Congress pass legislation allowing the IRS to disclose tax return information directly to the department for the purpose of administering certain federal student financial aid programs. According to the agency, such legislation, if enacted, would allow borrowers to more easily certify their income on an annual basis to maintain enrollment in IDR plans, and allow the department to use the information to mitigate improper payments to borrowers as a result of misreported income data. Education also stated that in the meantime, it would explore whether commercially available data are sufficient in terms of scope, reliability, and cost effectiveness. Given that there are existing actions Education can take to implement our recommendation, we believe our recommendation is appropriate. Moreover, we believe that Education is best positioned to determine whether the proposal, if enacted, would address our recommendation, or if it would need to be expanded or modified in order to do so.
Office of Federal Student Aid The Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid should implement data analytic practices, such as data matching, and follow-up procedures to review and verify that borrowers reporting zero income on IDR applications do not have sources of taxable income at the time of their application. (Recommendation 2)
Open

Recommendation status is Open.

Education agreed with this recommendation, stating that it would develop data analytic practices to verify borrower reports of zero income contingent upon the enactment of legislation providing the department with access to federal income data. However, implementing this recommendation does not necessarily require Education to wait for such legislation. Our draft report describes data analytic practices, such as anomaly detection, which Education could implement using its own data to identify deviations from expected patterns in data over time. Education also stated that it plans to develop additional follow-up procedures to verify borrower reports of zero income, such as requiring borrowers to substantiate reports of zero income with appropriate documentation. In addition, Education described plans to formalize procedures to make referrals to Education's Office of Inspector General or the Department of Justice for suspected cases of IDR fraud. We encourage Education to combine its follow-up procedures with data analytic practices to satisfy the recommendation.
Office of Federal Student Aid The Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid should implement data analytic practices, such as data mining, and follow-up procedures to review and verify family size entries in IDR borrower applications. For example, Education could review and verify all borrower reports of family size or a subset identified as being most susceptible to fraud or error. (Recommendation 3)
Open

Recommendation status is Open.

Education agreed with this recommendation, noting that this information could be subject to misrepresentation or erroneous reporting by borrowers. Education stated that it would review various data points that can be used to select IDR applications and certifications for additional review prior to approval, such as providing more scrutiny when borrowers report unusual increases in family size from one year to the next. The agency also stated that it plans to formalize additional procedures to require certain borrowers to substantiate their family size. For example, Education will consider requiring IDR applicants to provide statements listing each household member and how they are related to the borrower.